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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month: Books and a Library Program


Celebrate Native American Heritage Month: Books and a Library Program

November, celebrated as Native American Heritage Month, is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse ancestry,  cultures and traditions, and to acknowledge the important contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, past and present. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which Tribal Nations have worked to conquer these challenges.

In recognition of this celebration, on November 14th at 7pm, the Library is presenting a program on the life and work of Native American artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, who was born in 1940, and raised on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. 

Speaker Janet Mandel will shed light on the artist’s luminous work that addresses the myths of her ancestors in the context of current issues facing Native Americans.  Smith’s inspiration also stems from the work of Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Robert Rauschenberg.  She uses paint, collage, and found objects to produce both representational and abstract images. 

Smith has had more than eighty solo exhibits over the past thirty years, organized and curated scores of Native exhibitions, and lectured at almost 200 universities, museums, and conferences.  Janet’s talk will reveal how Smith’s oeuvre creates a unique, intimate, and insightful visual language grounded in themes of personal and political identity.

It will also prepare you to enjoy the first retrospective of the artist’s works opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art on April 19, 2023.  Entitled Memory Map, it brings together nearly five decades of Smith’s drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures in the largest and most comprehensive showing of her career to date.  No registration is required to attend this event.

Here are some books available with your Livingston Library card that might help you explore the rich and diverse heritage of fiction, nonfiction, history, poetry, memoir, and more by and about indigenous peoples in the United States. 

(All descriptions are provided by each book’s publisher.)

Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

The explosive true saga of the legendary figure, Daniel Boone, and the bloody struggle for America’s frontier. This fast-paced and fiery narrative, fueled by contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, and eyewitness accounts, is a stirring chronicle of the conflict over America’s “First Frontier.”

Born of Lakes And Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West by Anne F. Hyde

A revealing history of the West that pivots on Native peoples and the mixed families they made with European settlers. There is mixed blood at the heart of America. And at the heart of Native life for centuries there were complex households using marriage to link communities and protect people within circles of kin. These family circles took in European newcomers who followed the fur trade into Indian Country from the Great Lakes to the Columbia River.

Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

Calling For A Blanket Dance : A Novel by Oscar Hokeah

A young Native American boy in a splintering family grasps for stability and love, making all the wrong choices until he finds a space of his own.

Carry : A Memoir Of Survival On Stolen Land by Toni Jensen

A powerful, poetic memoir about what it means to exist as an indigenous woman in America, told in snapshots of the author’s encounters with gun violence. In prose at once forensic and deeply emotional, Jensen shows herself to be a brave new voice and a fearless witness to her own difficult history—as well as to the violent cultural landscape in which she finds her coordinates.

Cheyenne Summer : The Battle Of Beecher Island : A History by Terry Mort

Evoking the spirit and danger of the early American West, this is the story of the Battle of Beecher Island, pitting an outnumbered United States Army patrol against six hundred Native warriors, where heroism on both sides of the conflict captures the vital themes at play on the American frontier.

Covered With Night : A Story Of Murder And Indigenous Justice In Early America by Nicole Eustace

In the summer of 1722, on the eve of a conference between the Five Nations of the Iroquois and British-American colonists, two colonial fur traders brutally attacked an Indigenous hunter in colonial Pennsylvania. Frantic efforts to resolve the case created a contest between Native American forms of justice, centered on community, forgiveness, and reparations, and an ideology of harsh reprisal, based on British law, that called for the killers’ execution. In a stunning narrative history based on painstaking original research, acclaimed historian Nicole Eustace reconstructs the crime and its aftermath, taking us into the worlds of Euro-Americans and Indigenous peoples in this formative period. 

Crazy Horse and Custer:The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen E. Ambrose

On the sparkling morning of June 25, 1876, 611 men of the United States 7th Cavalry rode toward the banks of Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory, where three thousand Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great warriors would soon be forever linked throughout history: Crazy Horse, leader of the Oglala Sioux, and General George Armstrong Custer. Both were men of aggression and supreme courage. Both became leaders in their societies at very early ages. Both were stripped of power, in disgrace, and worked to earn back the respect of their people. And to both of them, the unspoiled grandeur of the Great Plains of North America was an irresistible challenge. 

Dog Flowers : A Memoir by Danielle Geller

After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of alcohol withdrawal while homeless, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins a journey of confronting her family, her harrowing past, and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home–the Navajo reservation. Geller masterfully intertwines wrenching prose with archival documents to create a deeply moving narrative of loss and inheritance that pays homage to our pasts, traditions, heritage, and the family we are given, and the ones we choose.

Indigenous Continent : A New History Of America by Pekka Hämäläinen

Hämäläinen overturns the traditional, Eurocentric narrative, demonstrating that, far from being weak and helpless “victims” of European colonialism, Indigenous peoples controlled North America well into the 19th century. From the Iroquois and Pueblos to the Lakotas and Comanches, Native empires frequently decimated white newcomers in battle, forcing them to accept and even adopt Native ways. Even as the white population skyrocketed and colonists’ land greed become ever more extravagant, Indigenous peoples flourished due to sophisticated diplomacy and flexible leadership structures.

Iwígara : American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions And Science by Enrique Salmón

Salmón reveals the deep relationship between people and plants by exploring 80 plants of importance to American Indians. The belief that all life-forms are interconnected and share the same breath–known in the Rarámuri tribe as iwígara–has resulted in a treasury of knowledge about the natural world, passed down for millennia by native cultures.  Salmón teaches us the ways plants are used as food and medicine, the details of their identification and harvest, their important health benefits, plus their role in traditional stories and myths.

Killing Crazy Horse : The Merciless Indian Wars In America by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

A venture through the fraught history of our country’s founding on already occupied lands, from General Andrew Jackson’s brutal battles with the Creek Nation to President James Monroe’s epic “sea to shining sea” policy, to President Martin Van Buren’s cruel enforcement of a “treaty” that forced the Cherokee Nation out of their homelands along what would be called the Trail of Tears.

Living Nations, Living Words : An Anthology Of First Peoples Poetry collected and with an introduction by Joy Harjo

Harjo, the first Native poet to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate, has championed the voices of Native peoples past and present. Her signature laureate project gathers the work of contemporary Native poets into a national, fully digital map of story, sound, and space, celebrating their vital and unequivocal contributions to American poetry.

A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott

The Mohawk phrase for depression can be roughly translated to ‘a mind spread out on the ground.’ In this urgent and visceral work, Elliott explores how apt a description that is for the ongoing effects of personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas she and so many Native people have experienced. Elliott’s deeply personal writing details a life spent between Indigenous and white communities, a divide reflected in her own family, and engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, art, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, and representation.

New Native Kitchen : Celebrating Modern Recipes Of The American Indian by Chef Freddie Bitsoie & James O. Fraioli 

From Freddie Bitsoie, the former executive chef at Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and James Beard Award-winning author James O. Fraioli, this is a celebration of Indigenous cuisine. Accompanied by original artwork by Gabriella Trujillo and offering delicious dishes like Cherrystone Clam Soup from the Northeastern Wampanoag and Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin from the Pueblo peoples, Bitsoie showcases the variety of flavor and culinary history on offer from coast to coast, providing modern interpretations of 100 recipes that have long fed this country. 

Night Of The Living Rez by Morgan Talty

Set in a Native community in Maine, this is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy. In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Talty–with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight–breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, this is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community.

Poet Warrior : A Memoir by Joy Harjo

 In the second memoir from the first Native American to serve as US poet laureate, Harjo invites us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her “poet-warrior” road.. Weaving together the voices that shaped her, Harjo listens to stories of ancestors and family, the poetry and music that she first encountered as a child, the teachings of a changing earth, and the poets who paved her way. 

Probably Ruby : A Novel by Lisa Bird-Wilson

This is the story of a woman in search of herself, in every sense. When we first meet Ruby, a Métis woman in her thirties, her life is spinning out of control. But as we soon learn, Ruby’s story is far more complex than even she can imagine. Given up for adoption as an infant, Ruby is raised by a white couple who understand little of her Indigenous heritage. This is the great mystery that hovers over Ruby’s life—who her people are and how to reconcile what is missing. 

The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth by The Red Nation

The Red Deal is a call for action beyond the scope of the US colonial state. It’s a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land—an affirmation that colonialism and capitalism must be overturned for this planet to be habitable for human and other-than-human relatives to live dignified lives. 

The Removed : A Novel by Brandon Hobson

Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago.

The Taking Of Jemima Boone : Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, And The Kidnap That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl

Explores the little-known true story of the kidnapping of thirteen-year-old Jemima Boone, Daniel Boone’s daughter, by a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party and the ensuing battle with reverberations that nobody could predict.

The Three-Cornered War : The Union, The Confederacy, And Native Peoples In The Fight For The West by Megan Kate Nelson

A dramatic, riveting, and deeply researched narrative account of the epic struggle for the West during the Civil War, revealing a little-known, vastly important episode in American history. Exploring the connections among the Civil War, the Indian wars, and western expansion, Nelson reframes the era as one of national conflict–involving not just the North and South, but also the West. Against the backdrop of this larger series of battles, Nelson introduces nine individuals who fought for self-determination and control of the region.

Unworthy Republic : The Dispossession Of Native Americans And The Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt

A masterful and unsettling history of the forced migration of 80,000 Native Americans across the Mississippi River in the 1830s. Saunt upends the common view that “Indian Removal” was an inevitable chapter in US expansion across the continent. Instead, Saunt argues that it was a contested political act-resisted by both indigenous peoples and US citizens-that passed in Congress by a razor-thin margin. He reveals how expulsion became national policy, abetted by southern slave owners and financed by Wall Street. 

We Are The Middle Of Forever : Indigenous Voices From Turtle Island On The Changing Earth edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth

A powerful, intimate collection of conversations with Indigenous Americans on the climate crisis and the Earth’s future.

We Had A Little Real Estate Problem : The Unheralded Story Of Native Americans in Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff

Comedy historian Nesteroff focuses on one of comedy’s most significant and little-known stories: how, despite having been denied representation in the entertainment industry, Native Americans have influenced and advanced the art form. Profiles important events and humorists from the 1880s to the present.

We Refuse To Forget : A True Story Of Black Creeks, American Identity, And Power by Caleb J. Gayle

Journalist Gayle tells the extraordinary story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens. Thanks to the efforts of Creek leaders like Cow Tom, a Black Creek citizen who rose to become chief, the U.S. government recognized Creek citizenship in 1866 for its Black members. Yet this equality was shredded in the 1970s when tribal leaders revoked the citizenship of Black Creeks, even those who could trace their history back generations—even to Cow Tom himself.

When Two Feathers Fell From The Sky by Margaret Verble

Louise Erdrich meets Karen Russell in this deliciously strange and daringly original novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Margaret Verble: set in 1926 Nashville, it follows a death-defying young Cherokee horse-diver who, with her companions from the Glendale Park Zoo, must get to the bottom of a mystery that spans centuries.

Why We Serve : Native Americans In The United States Armed Forces by Alexandra N. Harris

Commemorates the 2020 opening of the National Native American Veterans Memorial at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the first landmark in Washington, DC, to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of Native veterans. The book brings fascinating history to life with historical photographs, sketches, paintings, and maps. Incredible contributions from important voices in the field offer a complex examination of the history of Native American service.

Woman Of Light : A Novel  by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

A sprawling novel that follows five generations of a family of Mexican and Indigenous descent who live throughout the region now known as New Mexico and Colorado.

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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